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City of Indianapolis holding public meeting to get more input on former Greenlawn Cemetery site

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Posted at 10:56 PM, Jun 06, 2024

INDIANAPOLIS — The City of Indianapolis is looking to gather more information and community input on the history of the former Greenlawn Cemetery.

The Indianapolis Department of Public Works is working on the White River Innovation District Infrastructure Project that will connect the Henry Street Bridge to Kentucky Avenue, as well as the Cultural Trail.

However, the project runs over a portion of the former Greenlawn Cemetery, the city’s first cemetery.

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Now, the Indianapolis Department of Public Works announced a new website where users can provide information and give their input on the project.

“This site has a long, complicated and unfortunate history,” Brandon Herget, Indy DPW Director, said.

Historians have labeled the former cemetery as one of the largest burial grounds for African Americans in Indiana.

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“It is too valuable, too important. It means too much to too many to just disregard the significance and the sacredness and the heritage of that land," Eunice Trotter, director of Indiana Landmarks’ Black Heritage Preservation Program, said.

The land is now getting recognition as the Keystone Group wants to move forward with plans for Eleven Park and the city works on the new district infrastructure project.

Last month, the Keystone Group announced its crews found 87 burials across six-acres of the site.

The group is working to move the remains they've found so far to Jackson Cemetery and have said they've had a steadfast commitment to reinterment and memorialization.

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However, the city has estimated there could be around 650 buried across the 25-acres.

The uncertainty of what will happen to the future site is behind the preservation push for groups like the Black Church Coalition.

They want the voices of the Black community heard loud and clear.

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“I go to university, United Methodist Church, and just to know the discovery of over 100 church members are still there," LaNette Boone, a central committee member of the Black Church Coalition, said. “We are still working on getting that contact with those families, just to see specifically what they need."

The coalition joins Indiana Landmarks in those who want to see the land turned into a green space for a place of memoralization and reflection.

City officials will also be holding a public meeting to discuss the project with residents.

“The former Greenlawn Cemetery has been negatively compromised by industrial development for well over a century,” Herget said. “We have made commitments to the community to go above and beyond state law when it comes to this project, and this extensive research into who remains buried at the site is part of that. We now hope to incorporate the greater Indianapolis community into this effort.”

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The meeting regarding the project will be held on Monday, June 24 at 5 p.m. at Edison School of the Arts, located at 777 S. White River Parkway Dr. W.

Members of the public are encouraged to attend to hear project updates, learn about the latest historical research and give their input.

For more information on the White River Innovation District Infrastructure Project, click here.